What not to say to a friend who has had weight-loss surgery

If you’ve read the Shrinking Kerry page of this here weblog, you know that I had a vertical sleeve gastrectomy (The Sleeve) surgery late last year. The Sleeve is a weight-loss surgery. Lately I’ve struggled with the reactions of people around me. I’ve lost 82 pounds in almost 8 months and it’s pretty obvious. Apparently my body and my weight are open for discussion with anyone at any time and unwelcome comments arise often. I thought I’d write a guide of what not to say to friends who have had weight-loss surgery because dammit, someone has to do it. I should add that this wasn’t written specifically for one incident or remark – it’s in regard to what I hear practically every time I leave the house and usually by people I wouldn’t say are close friends. Except for the Target cashier, who said “what did you do? get an organ out or something?”

I realize everyone is not as sensitive as I am and I realize some people are practically unoffendable. I just made up that word. But for most of us, our weight has been a topic we’d rather ignore for as long as we were overweight, so it’s uncomfortable when a friend says:

“Wow. You look soooooo much better/sooooo great!” Thank you, but I didn’t have surgery to look great, not to mention that I thought I looked great before. It’s true. I liked my curves. I wasn’t an overweight girl who hated herself. I had surgery to save my life. I didn’t want to have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and feel tired all the time. I was very unhealthy. This isn’t true for all overweight people, but it was for me. So, I’m glad you think I look great, but it’s deeper than that. I feel great and that’s what I wanted.

“Can you eat that?” I’d rather discuss practically anything than what I can and can’t eat. Really. Anyone want to discuss politics? The Paula Deen scandal? My thoughts on the pajamification of America? Here’s the thing: there are several weight-loss surgeries and everyone’s doctors and nutritionists have different plans. Also, things may sit better with some people than others. So, your cousin may have achieved goal weight and eats whatever she wants, but I may not digest lettuce well. It’s a very individual thing. On the other hand, she may not be able to digest dairy anymore. I can. Goody goody gumdrops for me.

“I hate to eat this in front of you.” Please don’t feel that way. If you’re hungry, eat. If you want to eat a Snickers, eat a Snickers. Really. I’m not judging you and I don’t want to attack you for your candy. I’m fine. I will eat something if I’m hungry.

“You’re getting so skinny!” Again, it’s not about being skinny. It’s about my health. And “skinny” has always been a bad word in my book. AND, I’m not skinny.

“Are you going to have plastic surgery after you’ve lost the weight?” Unless we are VERY close friends, that’s really personal. I wouldn’t ask if you were planning on hairplugs, baldy.

“I’m not going to recognize you the next time I see you!” Yes, you will. I didn’t have a head transplant.

“Keep it up!” This is just weird, and yet, I’ve heard this several times. 85% of my stomach was removed, I really don’t have a choice. But thanks.

“Are you going to try to run a marathon now?” Unless this was a goal prior to losing weight, probably not. Again, everyone is different, but I wasn’t athletic before surgery (unless you count when I went to the finals in intramural badminton in college AND I TOTALLY DO), so I’m not going to suddenly become a runner. I’m also not going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro or ski or go white water rafting. I prefer the Great Indoors.

“My aunt had that surgery and her whole personality changed.” Yikes. Was it a change for the better or did she leave her loving husband who adored her when she was at her heaviest? Unless it’s positive, I don’t want to hear about it. Some people change. Some people were that awful person on the inside when they were fat, they just were good at hiding it.

“I work with this guy who lost 100 lbs without surgery, it’s so great that he was able to do it on his own.” Yeah, I agree, that is great. I tried every diet out there for 20 years, but I needed something drastic. No amount of will power or Dr. Philisms worked for me. It’s ok, surgery was just a tool, like how South Beach or Weight Watchers is for many people.

“I need to lose weight. I wish I could have surgery.” This almost always comes from someone who is 20-30 lbs overweight. Surgery isn’t for you. Like I said, this is drastic. Trust me, you do not want to have your stomach permanently altered, take supplements, and change your way of eating for the rest of your life just to lose 30 lbs. There are plenty of unpleasant things I’ve had to deal with from having surgery and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone who could lost the weight they need to on a program that didn’t require surgery.

So, that’s what I have to say about that. Tomorrow is my birthday. Stay tuned.

Comments

  1. So proud of this it’s making me cry. You are my very special daughter with so much talent, wit and intellect it blows my mind. Keep it up! Look forward to more.
    Your Mom
    Happy Birthday!

  2. Love every one of these… one day I’ll have to fill you in on the “helpful” things random people said while I had cancer… some were equally appealling…

  3. Wonderful, now tell me how to respond to them?

    • Cathey, a simple “you look great” goes a long way. If your friend wants to talk about his/her weightloss, they will say something like “thanks! I’ve lost 82 pounds!”If your friend has recently had surgery, there is nothing wrong with asking how they’re feeling. Just be kind and respectful. Everyone likes a sincere compliment.

  4. Debbie Kelly says:

    You look awesome had my surgery lat Nov 2012..Thought I was the only one with this feeling..Yesss:-) :-) :-)

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